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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wedges and the Yardage Gap

One of the biggest advantages I’ve found of the new yardage finding technologies (rangefinders and GPS units) is the ability for the average golfer to dial in their yardages for all clubs, especially on their wedges. In the past, the only way to really do this was to hope your course had accurate sprinkler yardages (but even this was flawed due to varying pin placements) or to pace off the yardages (and hope your steps were exactly a yard!).

This past weekend, I played a course with a great cart GPS system that had distances to the actual pin location. I decided to take advantage of this accuracy and technology to dial in the distances of my wedges. Whenever I had a fairly flat lie, with little or no wind and hit an “average” wedge shot with my 58°, 54° or 50° wedges, I would utilize the GPS and just pace off my distance from the hole to peg my actual distance with each club. Then I would write the yardage down on the back of the wedge head with a marker. (Note: expect a little ribbing from your playing companions when they see a “90” written on the back of your wedge!)

I was surprised in how much I learned by doing this and I think this exercise will help others as well. I learned that my 58° goes exactly 75 yards (I used to think it was somewhere between 65 and 85 yards), my 54° goes exactly 90 yards (I used to think the range was 85-100 yards) and probably the most educational part of this exercise was to learn that my 50° goes only 95 yards, only a 5 yard gap from my 54°!

I plan on making one major change due to this experience: I will either bend my 50° loft stronger until I reach 105 yards exactly or I will buy a new gap wedge that travels this distance. That way, I will have an exact 15 yard gap between my 58°, 54°, 50° and 47° pitching wedge (which travels 120 yards).

The two major takeaways I had from this were: 1. Don’t believe that consistent loft gaps between wedges will lead to consistent yardage gaps. 2. My yardage control with wedges improved immediately just by knowing these yardages instead of guessing.

How do you do this?
If you have a GPS that allows shot distance tracking (most do) or a rangefinder, you’re all set. If not, borrow one from a buddy. When you get up to a wedge shot in “perfect” conditions (flat lie, low wind), mark your distance to the flag with the rangefinder or mark your starting location with the GPS unit and then if you’re using the rangefinder just step off your yardage short of or past the pin to determine the actual distance or with the GPS just walk to the ball and find out how far it went. Then, just write it down (use a piece of paper if you don’t want to write on the wedge like I did). Soon enough, it will be committed to memory.

One should really do this exercise with all clubs, but I’ve found the most bang for the buck comes with the wedges. Perhaps it is because these are the clubs used most during the round, but I also think it is because these yardages are the least understood by most golfers.

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